Hurricanes & Climate Change

With Hurricane Dorian approaching the Bahamas, I have been thinking about the climate. Climate change is upon us. I will be hosting a screening of Paris to Pittsburgh on October 10, 2019. Details will be forthcoming. But, what about hurricanes?

According to Nature Geoscience, storms will increase in frequency and intensity in the future.[i] Another journal suggests storm surge will increase as the climate changes.[ii] Scientists predict that storms will get worse.[iii] New studies and data reinforce these claims.

For me, the questions relate to responding to the storms and the theology of how humanity treats the planet. I am not defeatist. We can address climate change and we can reverse it if we do something. After storms, we can try to help people pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.

What about the bigger questions?

Addressing some of the bigger questions make responding easier. Do we try to build stronger homes to stand up to the stronger storms? Will little changes in all our lives make a difference? Is everything interconnected? Trash the landscape here and there is a negative impact over there.

Karankawa People

The Karankawa People lived in what is today Texas during pre-Colonial times. By 1858, Mexicans and Americans worked together to kill the last of the Karankawa.

My interest stems from the way historians and archeologists think the Karankawa responded to hurricanes.

First, they went to higher ground. They were not wedded to a “house” the way we are today. They were nomadic. In their tribal lore, rattlesnakes held a place of reverence and fear. When they saw snakes fleeing en masse to higher ground, they followed them.[iv]

Second, when they could see a storm coming, they went deep into a live oak grove. Once inside the protection of the trees, they would climb the trees. The storm surge would pass beneath them. Once it receded, they would climb down.[v]

What do we do today?

It is impractical to suggest returning to a nomadic lifestyle. But, out-engineering nature is a fallacy. For impending storms, take precautions. Gather food. Put up storm protection. Or, evacuate when authorities say go.

We can also reduce our carbon footprint. We can seek alternatives to behavior that contributes to climate change. And, we can do all this as God’s hands and feet in the world. “The earth is the Lord’s…” (Psalm 24.1). We can recognize this truth and live like it.


[i] Thomas R. Knutson et al., “Tropical Cyclones and Climate Change,” Nature Geoscience 3 (2010).

[ii] Ning Lin et al., “Physically Based Assessment of Hurricane Surge Threat under Climate Change,” Nature Climate Change 2 (2012).

[iii] Christopher W. Landsea et al., “Atlantic Basin Hurricanes: Indices of Climatic Changes,” Climate Change 42, no. 1 (1999).

[iv] Richard P. Schaedel, “The Karankawa of the Texas Gulf Coast,” Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 5, no. 2 (1949).

[v] Thomas Wolff, “The Karankawa Indians: Their Conflict with the White Man in Texas,” Ethnohistory 16, no. 1 (1969).

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